A member recently asked me about a December opinion from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the case of Vaughan v. Anderson Regional Medical Center (Case no.: 16-60104). The appeal arose out of a termination lawsuit filed by Susan Vaughan, a nurse supervisor, against Anderson Regional Medical Center.
In a relatively simple opinion, the court confirmed its earlier position that compensatory and punitive damages are not available to plaintiffs who allege violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Unlike Title VII, ADEA’s damages provisions are patterned after the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court rejected the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s argument that subsequent amendments to the FLSA allow compensatory and punitive damage awards under ADEA as well.
There’s more. The court also disagreed with the EEOC that claims based on retaliation for complaining about age discrimination should be considered separately from bias claims for purposes of the additional damages. Based on precedent, the Fifth Circuit concluded that plaintiffs in age discrimination or retaliation claims are limited to remedies such as reinstatement or direct damages like lost wages and front pay.
After the decision, the EEOC indicated its intent to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. If accepted for review, this appeal could result in a nationwide standard for ADEA damages claims. Of course, the make-up of the Supreme Court could change.
Regardless, we’ll keep watch and keep you informed. -Damon Elmore, NAAAHR Atlanta General Counsel
We’d love to hear from YOU! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to contact Damon directly at (404)518-5759 or [email protected].
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